Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Information chief roots for RTI : WAJAHAT HABIBULLAH HAD DISPUTED PMO CLAIMS ON FILE NOTINGS NOT BEING PART OF ACT

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 23, 2006

Information chief roots for RTI

WAJAHAT HABIBULLAH HAD DISPUTED PMO CLAIMS ON FILE NOTINGS NOT BEING PART OF ACT

The bill had aimed to roll back some of the information disclosure norms, most notably, file notings by officials.

Habibullah made his displeasure over the proposed amendments clear.

‘‘When the announcement to amend first came, I wrote to the government saying we had been taken by surprise,’’ said Habibullah. “Later, we contested the PMO’s statement that file notings were never part of the original act, pointing to over 20 orders passed by the Central Information Commission since January giving citizens access to notings,” he added.

The five-member Central Information Commission is the final judge on appeals—over 500 each month, and steadily growing—from citizens unsuccessfully attempting to extricate information from governments.

An amendment Habibullah said he would like the government to bring is permitting the Commission to raise awareness about the law. ‘‘That would enable us to ask for funds from the state, design and carry out public programmes,’’ he added.

Currently, Habibullah is hearing appeals that range from whether communication during the Gujarat riots between then President K R Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee should be made public to information being demanded by government officials themselves.

Government employees, in fact, make up almost 60 per cent of the appellants. ‘‘It’s a sad commentary on the abstruse and complex way in which our administration operates, that its own employees have to resort to the law,’’ said Habibullah.

And while he argues that RTI marks ‘‘a silent revolution in governance’’, he agrees that the sunshine law is currently at odds with the opaqueness that the government thrives on.

‘‘Citizens successfully get information that suggests misdoing and bring it to me,” he said. “I have to tell them that we are not a grievance redressal authority and that they must take it up with the respective department.’’

But Habibullah argues that with time, RTI will impact and reform governance.

‘‘We should aim at reaching a stage where a citizen can walk into an office, discuss with an official the department and its workings and access any information that is in public interest,’’ he said.

‘proposed amendments, a mistake’
Delivering the first Rajiv Gandhi Annual Oration organised by the Mumbai University’s Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the Right to Information Act was not a stick to beat the government with. ‘‘It does not mark the fall of Bastille or a sign for citizens to storm the government!’’

Instead, Habibullah likened the law to Prince Charming’s ball, where all sections of government and society ‘‘would have to dance together’’ to ensure its success.

He said the proposed amendments resulted from the state’s ‘‘mistaken impression’’ that file notings do not constitute information under the act. ‘‘Hopefully, any review in the future will take place in a more co-ordinated framework.’’

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One Response to “Information chief roots for RTI : WAJAHAT HABIBULLAH HAD DISPUTED PMO CLAIMS ON FILE NOTINGS NOT BEING PART OF ACT”

  1. Dhirendra Krishna said

    It is unfortunate that implementation of RTI by the Government smacks of intellectual dishonesty. Following aspects are most shocking:

    (a) Web site of DOPT has excluded file noting from the definition of “information,” contrary to the provisions of RTI Act. THEY HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO DO SO.

    (b) Prime Minister has been misguided by DOPT into believing that file noting are excluded from RTI Act. It is unfortunate that this has led to totally false and baseless statements from the prime Minister.

    (c) DOPT is not monitoring various actions that Government is required to take to implement RTI Act.They seem to be only concerned with diluting it.

    As a educated citizen, I am totally apalled. I have moved RTI applications to Prime Minister’s office and DOPT. There reply is eagerly awaited.

    Dhirendra Krishna IA&AS (Retired)

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